War pilot woos future wife from the air
when Johnny Cox, 95, died at a North Shore rest home.
He was born in Liverpool in 1921 and was 18 in 1939 when Britain declared war on Germany. He joined the Royal Air Force in 1942 aged 20 and trained in Tiger Moths in South Africa. He was posted to Egypt and India flying Spitfires and Hurricanes before he joined the RAF’s 136 Squadron, known as ‘The Woodpeckers’.
Johnny and Rita were married in 1945 in Pennard, South Wales when the war ended. Their children Denise and Grahame were born in England after Johnny left the RAF and joined the Civil Aviation Branch of the Colonial Service in 1948. He was posted to Uganda in 1949. After four years he was sent to Kenya and by 1964, they were thinking of where to retire.
They chose New Zealand and arrived after a six-week voyage. Rita’s parents lived in Napier and her twin sister Valerie and her New Zealand husband farmed in Waikato. They bought 33 acres in Coatesville, northwest of Auckland, and built the house which became the family home for 52 years. Johnny Cox is survived by his wife Rita, 92, daughter Denise and Peter Hughes, son Grahame and Janette, six grandchildren and seven great grandchildren.
World War II fighter pilot Johnny Cox in the second Spitfire he named after Rita Tonkin.